Former Pa. Game Commission head Carl Roe leaves legacy of progress, controversy

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During his eight years as executive director of the state Game Commission, Carl Roe never raised the price of hunting licenses, and automated the license purchasing process. He was lauded for adding more than 50,300 acres to the state game lands system and bashed for bringing more industry to Pennsylvania's woodlands.

Characterized as agreeable by some, Roe's actions raised the ire of others. In a written statement, commission president Robert Schlemmer of Export said Roe was "an approachable leader." On announcement of Roe's pending retirement, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania president Randy Santucci of McKees Rocks said, "There were fundamental differences. We wish the director well, but it's probably a good time for a change."

Roe intentionally reduced the state's deer population, and managed regulatory changes that adjusted an artificial hunter-induced deer sex ratio that agency biologists said was unsustainable. Twice under Roe the agency was unsuccessfully sued over its deer management program. A state legislature-commissioned audit generally endorsed the program but recommended changes to methods of estimating deer density and public relations.

On the financial front, perhaps the best things that happened to Roe as executive director were Marcellus Shale and Barack Obama.

Roe had nothing to do with a decades-old Game Commission policy to purchase the mineral rights under state game lands. But during his tenure, new technologies were developed that could bring game lands shale gas to market. While keeping much of the industrial footprint off the game lands, Roe left the agency with increased commercial ties.

Roe had nothing to do with the election of President Obama. But gun owners' fear of anti-gun legislation resulted in a nationwide spike in the sale of firearms and ammunition. A corresponding windfall of federal Pittman-Robertson Act excise taxes were routed to Harrisburg.

Under Roe's direction, the new money was spent on filling personnel vacancies, upgrading vehicles and expanding and upgrading hunter-trapper education programs. Grant monies were invested in a lead remediation program that cleansed and upgraded the state's free shooting ranges.

A former U.S. Army colonel who taught strategic planning at the U.S. Army War College, Roe was hired by the Game Commission in 2001 as the agency's first long-range strategic planner. He was tapped as executive director in 2005.

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